A Call to Holiness
Have you been praying that God use you?  Have you been praying that all things that hinder your walk with Him be removed?  When you act or speak in the flesh and know that it was wrong do you feel a great conviction?  Are even the small things you do under scrutiny by God?  If your answers are all yes then it is time to answer the call that God is making.  It is a call to holiness!!

One morning, during my devotional time, God pointed something out to me.  I was reading my Bible and don't remember exactly what scripture I was reading, but was something along the lines of being holy.  God put the thought in my head that, if I wanted, I could aspire to be 100% in His will all the time.  He was telling me it was possible for me to get to the place where I no longer sin! Whoa whoa whoa!!  Stop the presses!!  Hold the phone and hold the horses!!  Slam on those brakes!!  At first, just thinking of not sinning any more brought the words "blasphemy" and "sacrilegious" to mind.  After all, Jesus was the only one who was able to not sin!  I'm not Jesus!

I tried to push it out of my mind since it was obviously wrong.  It was as easy to push out of my mind as it is to throw away a boomerang.  It was as easy to push out of my mind as it is to knock fruit flies off a piece of rotten fruit using a toothpick.  It was as easy to push out of my mind as it would be for me to push a 10-ton boulder out of my way.  Get the picture??

When I hear God teaching me something new (new to me) I always meditate on it.  If it is something that I can't push out of my mind then that pretty much tells me that I didn't think of it myself.  I look for scriptures to either prove I was hearing wrong or to prove I was hearing right.  I keep asking God to verify or sometimes clarify what He told me.  In this case I was sure I heard wrong.  However, the more I struggled the more firmly God gripped me.  The more I protested the more He calmly insisted that it was so.

I reflected on the scriptures mentioning holiness and holy.  Those scriptures reminded me of others.  I began to realize that, as I had read them over and over and over in the past, I had never really absorbed them into my heart.  I had held them at arm's length and minimized their meaning.  Some of those scriptures were:

"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
2Corinthians 7:1

"But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."
1Peter 1:15-16

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me."
John 15:4

"Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee."
John 5:14

"She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."
John 8:11

"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
Matthew 5:48

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Romans 12:2

"Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you."
Philippians 3:15

"According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love."
Ephesians 1:4

"That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
Ephesians 5:27

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
Philippians 2:14-16

I read those scriptures before!  I read them many times.  Why, all of a sudden, were they taking on a stronger meaning?  I had taken them lightly in the context of "people just can't help but sin".  I had read them with pre-conceived ideas helping me translate them!!!!  I had been taught over and over that we were to try to not sin and when we failed God would forgive us.  My understanding had relied heavily on what Paul said in Romans 7:18-25:

"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.  For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."

I fluctuated between moments of heart-racing joy thinking that sinlessness was attainable and times of telling myself to come back to reality where sin is a daily occurrence.  There wasn't anyone I knew that would say I was a bad person or even actually call me a sinner.  I am an honest person.  I can't remember the last time I told a lie.  I do not steal.  I don't hurt anyone.  I try really hard to be in God's will all of the time.  Yet, there are times when I go ahead and say or do things I shouldn't.  I kind of shut my ears to God's leading.

Some of the things I would tell myself:
"It's not that big of a deal."
"It's not like I'm hurting anyone."
"I'm trying, so that counts for something."
"I worked hard today.  I deserve to focus on myself."
"I am able to control it some of the time so I am doing better than when I did it all of the time."
"He/she deserved to hear that." (Regarding things I said)
"God will forgive me."
"I can't really be expected to love THOSE people."
"It's impossible not to sin."
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."  (Romans 3:23)  "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."  (Romans 5:12)  "I'm one of those 'all's' in those two verses."

The strongest argument was that it was impossible not to sin.  Once I put that "fact" into my head then I had more great excuses.  Naturally, many times I couldn't help but sin.  I would say things I shouldn't and do things I shouldn't, knowing that God didn't approve.  Of course, it wasn't my fault.  It was a result of the circumstances surrounding me.  It was my flesh jumping out before I could control it.  Then I might justify what I said or did with a, "I deserved the right to do that," or, "that other person deserved to receive what I said or did anyway."  After all, I am not a bad person.  The sins I commit fall within acceptability in society's eyes.  Everybody does it.  It's just God that disapproves.  Other Christians do it, too.

I could go on and on with justification for my actions.  Yet, I had read where Jesus said, "Sin no more" in  John 5:14 and 8:11 many times.  What did I think it meant?  Did I think that Jesus was being facetious because He knew it was impossible to do?  Did I think that He was trying to make them feel bad?  Did I think He just meant, don't do a particular sin any more?  I think that what I was doing was NOT THINKING.  I just zipped on by and didn't examine what He had said.  After all, it was them He was speaking to, not me!

I've been under different pastors in different churches.  They all seemed to agree that we will undoubtedly all sin now and again.  I've heard pastors make excuses for their own sins from the pulpit.  So, if pastors accept sin as a way of life, why shouldn't I?

So, there I was.  Have you ever seen someone wrestling with themselves?  That was me.  The neighbors could hear strange things coming from my house.... "NOOOOOOOOO!" and "YESSSSSSSS!"  "IMPOSSIBLE!" and "POSSIBLE!"  "NO WAY!" and "YES WAY!"  "CAN'T!" and "CAN!"  No, I'm kidding.  I wasn't yelling.  It was all inside my head.

The funny thing is I wanted to believe it.  I got all excited thinking that I actually could get to the point where I was pleasing God all of the time.  After all, I had made a vow to Him telling Him I was going to always choose His ways and not my own.  Apparently I thought I could do it, or at least it was my deep desire to be able to do it.  I know God put it on my heart to make that vow.

I got caught up on all my mailing list email and found three Words that were confirming what I had heard God telling me.  (I put them under "Other Sources" on the other Holiness page I put together.)  I love it when He does that.  He doesn't expect us to be flying alone or doubtfully.  There have been a lot of times He has confirmed things He told me through email Words given by other people.  What a wonderful tool, the Internet.  I can be alone in my house and get confirmation.

A few days later when I told my weekly prayer partner about feeling God was calling me to holiness, to sinlessness, you should have seen the look on her face.  It was probably the same look I had when God announced it to me.  It was a look of shock combined with puzzlement and some denial.  I could see her mind start humming along, looking for scripture that would refute what she heard me saying.  Her mouth even opened to speak those scriptures because she knew I was hearing wrongly.  Then she slowly closed her mouth and began to wrestle with the concept, just as I had wrestled with it.  The next week when we got together again, she had come to the conclusion that it was, indeed, time to embrace holiness.

I had to keep reminding myself that this was not a new concept.  The scriptures are full of instruction about holiness.  If you read the scriptures that have the words "holiness," "holy," "perfect," and other similar words you will find more.  As listed in the scriptures above, Jesus told people to "sin no more."  There is no getting away from the fact, God expects us to stop sinning.

Have you ever noticed that when God calls you to do something He always equips you with the tools you need?  If He gives you an assignment that He wants you to complete He isn't going to say, "Good luck!  You're going to need it!"  If He wants it done then He will make sure that you have all you need to do it.

What tools do we need to stop sinning?  How about love?  If we loved all people as much as God wants us to love them would we ever say anything mean, hurtful, or cruel?  If we had enough love for other people would we be selfish with our talents, time, money, or anything else we have?  If we trusted and allowed God to heal our own hurts would we retreat into drugs, alcohol, or other escape-modes?  There are way too many kinds of sin to cover them all, but the bottom line is that God is offering us patience, love, understanding, wisdom, joy, and many other wonderful tools that will help us to stop sinning.

 Now that I've introduced the call God gave me and you've had a chance to think about it a little, let me add this.  The same time He told me it was time for holiness in my life He threw in something else.  He told me it would be EASY!  Oh, come on!  It seemed so ridiculously false that I almost laughed.  He told me that it was EASY not to sin!   What a kidder!  Such a sense of humor God has!  Easy!  Pfffft!  It's easy TO sin, not easy to NOT sin!  Have you ever tried to explain something to God to show Him that He made a mistake?  Well, I sure tried on that one!  After all, even Paul continued to sin and complained how hard it was to do the right things.  Am I better than PAUL??  I think not!  What about my pastors who admitted to sinning?  Am I better than them??  They were called by God to teach people about what God wants!  How could I do what they couldn't?

Well, it seemed God just listened to my arguments and then gently repeated, "It's easy."  No, that couldn't be true!  I figured I must have been losing my mind and hearing things.  I had to be imagining that.  I made it up.  Yeah, that's it, I made it up!  Then, when I kept mulling the whole thing over it occurred to me that I would NEVER imagine something like that.  I wouldn't entertain the notion that not sinning is easy any more than I'd all of a sudden try to convince myself that I was the Queen of England!

The more I thought about it the clearer it became.  It is easy to sin because I want to do those things.  They are a result of the lust of the flesh.  The word lust is used mostly to refer to things of a sexual nature these days, but the lust of the flesh actually refers to the reason we sin when we know that something is wrong.  When we do something even when we know we shouldn't then we are getting some kind of satisfaction out of it or else we wouldn't do it in the first place.  Perhaps we are serving out our own form of justice.  Perhaps we need to prove that we are right and somebody else is wrong.  Perhaps we feel we deserve to have something that isn't really ours.  Perhaps lying is an easy way out of something.  Each time we sin there is a reason for it and that reason probably has something to do with self-satisfaction or self-gratification of some kind.

We can justify sinning until we are blue in the face but we will never convince God that sinning is OK.  If we are sensitive to what God is telling us then we will never be fully convinced that it is OK for us to do something wrong because God will prick us about it every single time.  He knows the effects of everything and that's why He wants us not to sin.  He can see where a sin might hurt other people or hurt us, even when we don't.  It is easy for us to believe that a sin that only affects ourselves is not bad.  Well, God can see the effect of the build up of sin against ourselves.  There are consequences that may end up creating something bigger.  If we allow a tiny sin then we may be setting ourselves up to be hardened in our hearts so bigger and bigger sin seems insignificant.  Our "tiny" sin may cause us to harden our hearts against God.  Our buildup of tiny sins may affect our health or our mental state.  Only God knows the full extent.

God will show us when something is a sin.  He knows what is good and what is bad in our life.   When we have the conviction that something we said or something we did was wrong, then the chances are very good that was God telling us it was wrong.  There are even some things that are allowed in the Bible or that He allows others to do that would be sin for us to do.  God is the authority on what is sin and what is not and handles each person on an individual basis. 

It is time we quit trying to convince ourselves that we can't help sinning.  We need to face the fact that we are choosing to sin each and every time we do it.  Every single day we are faced with an endless array of choices.  We choose what words we will say.  We choose what actions we will take.  We choose what facial expressions to use.  We even choose what things we will allow our mind to dwell upon.  God knows which choice we should make.  He communicates His desires to us moment by moment.  We can choose to ignore the conviction or we can choose to listen and do something about it.

We need to examine everything before we do it.  It just takes a second.  We can choose to react in the flesh or react as God wants us to react.  It is like walking.  You don't get from one location to another without a series of individual steps.  That's how each day progresses, with a series of choices.  Choose God's way or choose our own.  Over and over it happens.  Choose God's way or choose our own... choose God's way or choose our own... over and over day in and day out.

In order to be completely willing to choose God every time it is necessary to complete the process of dying-to-self.  I've already done some studies on dying-to-self that you can read if you are interested.  One is a series of studies and the other is a brief description of my own process.

Dying-to-self is the process of giving our lives to God.  It is the process of giving back to Him what He gave us in the first place.  It is described in various scriptures such as:

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
Psalm 51:17

"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints."
Psalm 116:15

"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."
Matthew 16:24-25

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.  He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal."
John 12:24-25

"Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.  For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.  So then death worketh in us, but life in you."
2Corinthians 4:10-12

"And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."
Galatians 5:24

"Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,"
Philippians 3:8

"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses."
Colossians 2:13

"Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:"
Colossians 3:5

"It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him."
2Timothy 2:11

The thing that happens when we complete the process of dying-to-self is that we are so focused on what God wants that it is no longer important to consider what we want.  We have learned to trust God completely and know that He will look out for our needs and desires so that we don't have to even think about them any more.

I had joyfully yet somewhat reluctantly come to the conclusion that God expected me to not sin any more.  Ever since then I have been paying close attention to the times that I chose to sin.  The first week I just became an observer.  I did everything I normally do.  Each time I felt the conviction that I should or shouldn't do something I went ahead and did what I would have always done.  At the same time I examined what motivated me to do what I did and what it would take for me to follow God's leading and to do the right thing.  It was like I was a scientist observing myself and keeping track of my own actions.

It probably sounds very strange to be observing your own self.  I figured that I would be able to get an idea as to whether it would be possible for me to achieve holiness.  I wanted to see why I did what I did.  It was very strange because, in most cases, the things I did were just habit.  I had never had a strong reason to stop doing them so I just kept doing them.  Those things were the most easy to change.  I just had to stay alert and on guard.  I couldn't relax and allow my brain to go into "automatic drive."  I had to be aware of every word I said and every action I took.

So, as of this writing, I have been slowly conforming to God's will, one thing at a time.  I have to be on guard all the time, however.  It would be easy to slip into a mode of, "what difference does it make?"  I still don't see what is wrong with some of the things God is showing me that He wants changed.  I am still tempted to treat people in the way I feel they deserve based on their own actions.  In a way I would like the freedom to be just like everyone else, doing what I want, within reason.

The only way I can give up on my quest for holiness is to turn my back on God.  I would have to, on purpose, choose my ways over His.  I would have to ignore Him when He is speaking to me.  These are the things I was doing before, but now it would be even worse because I have more knowledge about being holy.  Each time I read a scripture that points to holiness I won't be able to turn my head and pretend it means something else.

 However, I will not settle for less than what God wants me to be.  My desire is to please Him.  My desire is to one day hear Him say, "Well done good and faithful servant."  God will help me to achieve what He wants me to do.  He knows the things we go through here.  Jesus "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."  (Hebrews 4:15)

Holiness is all relative based on God's will for each of us.  Like I said, what is sin for one person is not necessarily sin for another.  What is sin for us one day is not necessarily sin on a different day.  The only way to find out is to be listening to that "still, small voice" of God and finding out His desire for us.

Holiness at first seems to be all about an individual's relationship with God.  Yet, that is only a small part of it.  What we do, how we act, the things we say all affect other people.  Consider this quote from the book Come Away My Beloved by Frances J. Roberts, "Eternal destinies are involved in the matters of thy holiness and thy faithfulness and thine obedience to My direction and will; but My love for thee is independent of these factors."  Eternal destinies!  I wrote another article that deals with how the things we do and say have far-reaching effects.  It is called "Are You Building Up or Tearing Down?"

The only way that people are going to see God in us is if we stand out from the crowd.  We have to appear to be different than everyone else.  How does that happen?  We can't react in the expected way.  We must be speaking words of edification when people expect to hear anger or some other negative emotion.  We must love people who insist on being unlovable.  If we are constantly listening to what God wants us to be doing and saying then we will be different than the rest.  When we choose to do things God's way then even our countenance will reflect Him.  The things we are doing will not have an undertone of selfishness because the things we are doing will not be to serve our own needs.

We will look like everyone else but we will shine with an unearthly light.  We will shine with God's love, with truth, with strength, with peace, and with all the other things that God desires us to demonstrate.  Other lives will be affected by what we say and do.  Only God knows what the long-term effects will be.  We just have to trust Him to know and then obey.

So here I am, in the midst of a war in my quest for holiness.  The enemy is hoping I will fail.  He knows that failure would cause me to withdraw from a close relationship from God due to guilt.  When I am ignoring what God wants then I try to hide from Him.  It's as if I treat God like I would a person who is mad at me.  I figure He would be mad so I don't think about Him, which is my way of hiding from Him.

I am going to have to fight hard to resist temptation.  I know I will be tempted to take the easy route.  I will not want to be the odd person when all around me are doing wrong.  Yet, I must do as God directs in spite of my surroundings.  I will be tempted to want to treat people the way I feel they need to be treated.  There are going to be many different temptations to do wrong.

I will undoubtedly receive resistance from other Christians.  Christians are probably less likely to believe that they should push toward holiness than non-Christians who believe that good behavior is enough to get a person into heaven.  For the most part, Christians are stuck in the mode I was in of feeling it was acceptable to sin now and again.  There is a bumper sticker I've seen a lot that says, "Christians are not perfect, just forgiven."  In the light of God wanting us to be holy that is not a good witness to the rest of the world!

I must be alert at all times.  I must anticipate the wrong things that I will want to do (based on my past behavior and my bad habits) and face them down one by one.  I must become used to listening to God all the time.  I must not assume that something that is in His will one day will be what He wants me to do every single time.  The more I walk in God's will the easier it will become because it will become automatic.  My bad habits will become good habits.

The hardest thing is to not act the same around my husband.  He is the one I am around the most and I have built habits and automatic responses over the years.  God knows and will help me.  After all, I can't achieve any of this on my own.  My portion is to find out what God's desire is for me and allow God to help me change to become all that He desires..

There are other things that must happen before I can get anywhere near anything resembling holiness, too.  I must learn humility.  I must die to those things that make me special (see the studies on dying-to-self.)  Holiness is not a stand-alone concept.  There are a lot of other factors involved.  In order to be walking in God's will it is necessary to allow ourselves to be taught by God.  He will bring us to that place step-by-step.  Each of us is different and needs to go through a somewhat different process.  If we choose to accept then the result is the same:  doing everything in God's will.

Scriptures and quotes from various people on holiness


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